Diabetes and your EYES

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

What is Diabetes? Diabetes is basically too much sugar or “glucose” in the blood. Sugar comes from the food we eat and is used by the body for energy. Insulin a (hormone) is made in the pancreas. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce enough of the hormone “insulin” or the insulin produced has a reduced effect. Insulin regulates the way your body uses the food you have eaten.

Type 1 Diabetes – Children who are diagnosed with diabetes are usually type 1 and most commonly occurs before the age of 30. With type 1 diabetes the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin, therefore, type 1 diabetes is primarily controlled by insulin injections.

Type 2 Diabetes – Type 2 diabetes commonly occurs after the age of 40, however, recently more children are being diagnosed with type 2. In type 2 diabetes the pancreas still makes some insulin, but the insulin is either too little or the body does not use it appropriately. Although diabetes can be related to genetics and environmental, diabetes has also been linked to being overweight and lack of exercise.

Appropriate treatment for type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is important in order to avoid problems in the eyes, brain, heart, kidneys, feet and nerves. Eating healthy and regular exercise are key. Daily blood sugar checks will let you know if your daily treatment plan is working.

How does Diabetes affect the Eyes?

High blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of eye problems from diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause the lens of the eye to swell which could cause temporary blurred vision, but blurred vision could also be a symptom of a more serious eye problem such as cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20-74. The longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk for developing an eye problem. Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels of your eye and if they become blocked or leak then the retina, and possibly your vision could be affected.

You can reduce your risk of eye problems by:

· Controlling your blood sugar (glucose) levels

· Control your blood pressure and cholesterol

· Eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and quit smoking

· Regular eye examinations

· Regular physical examinations

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy:

Background Retinopathy: This is the most common type of diabetic retinopathy and many people who have had diabetes for some time will have this early type. The blood vessels are only mildly affected. Blood vessels in the retina may bulge slightly or may leak blood or fluid, but as long as the macula (central vision) is not affected, vision is normal and you will not be aware that anything is wrong.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: If diabetic retinopathy progresses, it can cause the blood vessels in the retina to become blocked. These blockages when affecting a significant part of the retina, can result in areas of the retina becoming starved of oxygen. If this happens your eye is stimulated into growing new vessels called neovascularization. These new vessels are very fragile and weak and grow in the wrong place, as a result, these blood vessels can bleed very easily which might result in large hemorrhages over the surface of the retina or into the vitreous gel. Extensive hemorrhages can lead to scar tissue forming which pulls and distorts the retina and can result in retinal detachment with the risk of loss of sight.

Diabetic Maculopathy: Diabetic maculopathy affects the macula and your central vision is affected, however, peripheral vision remains intact.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy (Lasers):

Most sight-threatening problems caused by diabetic retinopathy can be managed by laser treatment if detected early enough.

Localized laser treatment – when individual vessels or small groups of vessels are leaking, the laser can seal them, stop the bleeding and help reduce the swelling of the retina.

Pan-retinal laser treatment – this treats large areas of the “peripheral retina” which stops the retina from producing the growth factors that stimulate new blood vessel growth. If successful, new vessels shrink and will disappear over a few months.

*Often with diabetic retinopathy there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease nor is there pain. Be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year.

Contact your doctor if the following occurs:

· Black spots in your vision

· Flashes of light

· Holes in your vision

· Blurred vision

Most sight loss due to diabetes is preventable if treatment is given early. The earlier the treatment, the more effective it is.


· Early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is vital!

· Have annual diabetic eye screenings

· Don’t wait to see the doctor if your vision is deteriorating

· Speak to your family care provider if you notice changes in your health and vision

· Don’t be afraid to ask questions

· Control of sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol reduces the risk of diabetes

For more information on diabetes and your eyes visit our Educational Video Library

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